Vietnamese, American artists share classical music festival

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The Ascending Dragon Music Festival has brought an American chamber ensemble together with Vietnams' top classical musicians and music students in Vietnam for three weeks of performances and training.

Grammy winning Southwest Chamber Music has created the Ascending Dragon Music Ensemble, named for the original name of Hanoi, Thang Long (Ascending Dragon), for performances in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City that began Thursday night at the Vietnam National Academy of Music in the capital.

Nineteen Americans have traveled with the group to Vietnam, and 19 Vietnamese will accompany the group back to America for performances and training April 12-May 4.

The ensemble, which includes Southwest Chamber Music members and guest musicians from the Vietnam National Academy of Music, will play Copland, Cage, Debussy, Messiaen, Takemitsu, Schoenberg and Stravinsky as well as an exciting survey of new works from Vietnam and the United States.

As part of the Ascending Dragon program in both Vietnam and the US, Southwest Chamber Music will host workshops on arts administration, leadership and creativity to inspire in the Vietnamese students a taste for both cultural exchange and the business of staging international arts events.

Southwest's artistic director Jeff von der Schmidt said cultural exchange between Vietnam and the US was particularly important.

"My goal is to demonstrate that Vietnam is a country and not a war."

"I was shaped, as were so many Americans of my generation, by the double crucible of the Vietnam War and the Civil Rights Movement. I could never have dreamt in the 60s and 70s that I would be part of an ensemble representing the United States in Vietnam for the 1,000th anniversary of the founding of Hanoi."

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